Where to go for an authentic Texas cowboy experience

By Cynthia J. Drake

Cowboy culture in Texas has a long and proud history, dating back as early as the 1500s, when the Spanish first introduced cattle to this land, and continuing for three centuries with a line of hard-working ranchers, vaqueros, and Chisholm Trail riders.

Visitors who want to saddle up for an authentic cowboy experience in the Lone Star State will have their pick of options, from a weekend stay at a dude ranch, a visit to the rodeo, or shopping for the perfect pair of cowboy boots.
Here are some recommendations for great cowboy-themed trip options.
Visit the Cowboy Capital of the World. Bandera, Texas, a rural town nestled in the rolling hills of Texas Hill Country, is the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” a nod to its geographic importance in the last big cattle drives of the 19th Century. You can make a reservation at one of the town’s many dude ranches, such as Mayan Dude Ranch, Dixie Dude Ranch, and Rancho Cortez, enjoying simple bunkhouse accommodations, trail rides, and mess hall-style eats, signaled by a dinner bell.
Go to the Rodeo. Is this your first rodeo? No worries: Texans are happy to indoctrinate you. Typically held January through March, rodeos are held across the state in Fort Worth, Houston, San Angelo, Austin, and elsewhere, and they include impressive entertainment line-ups with concerts and children’s activities, in addition to traditional livestock shows and rodeo events.
Grab some breakfast with the ranchers. Cowboys still exist in Texas, and you are most likely to find them in the humble, mom-and-pop style diners near livestock auctions in Amarillo, Elkhart, and West. These are the places where farmers and ranchers still meet to sell their cattle at weekly sales. It doesn’t get much more authentic than a plate of “chicken-fried” at the Amarillo Stockyard Cafe. If you’re lucky, you might hear some great modern-day cowboy tales.
Get yourself a hat—and boots. If you come to Texas seeking some western flair, you might as well leave with some, too. Many handcrafted hats and boots are still made in Texas, from the custom-fit cowboy hats at Catalena Hatters in Bryan to the luxurious, hand-stitched Lucchese cowboy boots in El Paso. Stores across the state carry these items, and they’re also available to order online.